Thursday, December 18, 2014

Nevermore: Command, Conspiracy, History and more!

The first book mentioned in this week’s Nevermore was The Mantle of Command:  FDR at War 1941-1942 by Nigel Hamilton.  It was recommended in a previous session and our new reviewer wanted to second that recommendation.  Hamilton’s book is a thorough account of how Roosevelt took charge of the Allied War effort, often disagreeing with generals and allies alike.  Despite that heavy-sounding description, the book is a real page-turner, “history that reads like fiction,” according to the reader.  There was some discussion as to whether the author, who is British, was actually too hard on Churchill and the others.  A second volume is planned, and is already being highly anticipated!

 Bel Canto by Ann Patchett was the next book up.  The plot revolves around a group attending a concert by a famous opera singer in an unnamed South American country (but sounds a lot like Peru.) The event is interrupted when a group of terrorists take everyone hostage.  They intended to simply kidnap the country’s president but he didn’t attend because he didn’t want to miss his favorite soap opera.  Jud  said the book got off to a slow start but turned out to be an engaging and entertaining read.  As the hours turn into days and then to weeks, the book explores the way relationships develop between captives and captors.  The book shifts points of view often, telling one part through the eyes of a young soldier and the next from a Japanese businessman. It’s an effectively written book and one he enjoyed.

The same cannot be said for Rich Dad’s Conspiracy of the Rich by Robert T. Kiyosaki.  Jud called it a “dishonest book” in part because while the author says he wants to keep everything short and simple, he pads the book a great deal.  It’s mostly filler, and much of that seems to be self-promotion. The actual book shouldn’t take more than a page.

Another member said that while her book was interesting, the content didn’t match the title. The Invisible History of the Human Race by Christine Kenneally contains chapters on the history of Australia, with discussion of the convicts and the awful conditions of the orphanages. Another chapter dealt with the Melungeons, referencing Wayne Winkler’s book on the topic.  Our reviewer felt the book was more a collection of essays on various topics rather than a unified theme.  She suggested readers might wish to consult the table of contents to pick and choose which chapters to read rather than trying to read it straight through.

The Stranger You Know by Jane Casey  is a thriller about a hunt for a serial killer.  The setting is London, where Det. Maeve Kerrigan is trying to track down a man who first befriends women and then murders them.  Things get even more complicated when one of the suspects turns out to be a police officer himself.  Our reader described it as a pretty good book, and that it dealt with not only the problems of finding a killer but with the internal conflicts on the police force.

The final book was How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson.  The book is delightfully entertaining, thought-provoking, and does an excellent job of explaining how certain seemingly simple things changed culture and behavior.  For example, the chapter entitled “Glass” takes the substance from a decoration in an Egyptian necklace to telescopes and microscopes and then to the discoveries each made possible.  The book was based on a PBS series of the same name.

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